Thursday, 14 August 2014

This is the face...

The past couple of days have seen the internet explode with discussions around mental illness and suicide. Some has been great and informative and beautifully vulnerable. And some has been stigmatising rubbish which makes me incredibly sad.

A beautiful movement this week, that began with individuals putting a face to mental illness and attempting to break the stigma is #thisistheface. Because those of us who have struggled with mental illness are real people. We are not statistics or debate topics or a stigma. We are people who struggle and fight to survive with all of our being. Whether our battle is current or past, public or tucked deep inside, won or still battling, we are people who are fighting and who need our cheerleaders to stand alongside us, cheering us on instead of pointing fingers and heaping on shame.

Mental illness is real. It affects everyone, whether they have faced the battle themselves or they know someone who has. No-one is unaffected, which is why we need real information, and real grace-filled conversations about this topic. We need to sit with others and ask "Are you ok?" and be prepared to hear the answer that, no they are not. We need to sit in our shared humanity and acknowledge that we're all just a little bit fragile and broken, and that's ok.

#thisistheface of anxiety

#thisistheface of self-harm

#thisistheface of someone who spent 2 years on anti-depressants

#thisistheface of bulimia

#thisistheface of a survivor

Although the battle of my struggles is mostly in the past, anxiety is still something that pops up now and again. It's the quiet voice inside that I'm pretty good at tuning out, but sometimes begins to sing into my ear about how unworthy I am and how freaking scary life is. In times where I'm not taking the best care of myself, the voice gets a little louder and I get scared that I'm going to topple back down into that rabbit hole and may never find my way back out again.

Although the war of the battle is behind me, everyday I am fighting. I'm careful about what I eat, how much I sleep, what I expose myself too. Without those daily battles for life, I risk giving the voice a megaphone and opening the door for it to take over my life again. Without teaching myself healthier coping strategies, I risk taking a knife to my skin or putting my fingers down my throat once again as a way to feel ok. And even with the daily fight, I know that it's not guaranteed that I won't find myself at the bottom of that rabbit hole again, looking up and wondering how I will ever climb out.

I have resources. I have support. I have people who love me and understand me and fight the battle beside me. I hope I can be that person to others too. I hope that my voice will join the loud cries of support, telling the other battlers that "YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!", "THERE IS HOPE!", "ME TOO!". I hope our voices will rise and overshadow the megaphone of mental illness in someones mind. Our voices and our stories are powerful - let's use them to actually make a real difference.